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Samsung Galaxy Admire 4G (MetroPCS) review: Reliable, but held back by outdated Android OS

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MSRP: $169.99

The Good The prepaid Samsung Galaxy Admire 4G features a compact build, 4G LTE, and plenty of photo-editing options.

The Bad Running Android 2.3 Gingerbread, the Admire 4G feels dated right out of the box. It also has a low-resolution screen.

The Bottom Line The Samsung Galaxy Admire 4G is a dependable handset in its own right, but it just can't top the cheaper, faster, Android 4.0 LG Motion 4G.

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6.7 Overall
  • Design 7
  • Features 6
  • Performance 7

At just $100, the Samsung Galaxy Admire 4G has a number of things going for it. It delivers a consistent 4G LTE experience, it has an attractive, compact build, and it's ideal for customers looking for a simple, no-contract smartphone.

Unfortunately, one huge oversight with the device is that it runs on the Android 2.3 operating system. In the smartphone world, this is ages old (after all, there have been two updates since then). And the fact that MetroPCS carries plenty of other devices with Android 4.0 for about the same price, if not cheaper, doesn't help the Admire 4G look any better.

Interestingly, the Samsung Galaxy Admire 4G is reminiscent of the second-generation iPod. Coming only in white, it has a thick 0.47-inch profile, but it's extremely compact. It's easily maneuverable with one hand, and it has a dense construction that weighs 4.34 ounces. It measures 4.52 inches tall and 2.46 inches wide.

On the left is a thin volume rocker, and up top is a 3.5mm headphone jack. The right edge houses the sleep/power button, and on the bottom is the Micro-USB port for charging.

Samsung Galaxy Admire 4G
The Admire 4G's back plate has an attractive wood-grained texture that gives the device a more premium feel. Josh Miller/CNET

The 3.2-megapixel camera and LED flash are on the back, along with two small slits on the right for the audio speaker. Using an indent at the very top of the back plate, you can pry the cover off and gain access to the microSD card slot (which takes cards of up to 32GB) and battery. Though the device looks simple, I found the back plate to be attractive. It features a subtle wood-grain texture that adds a premium feel to an otherwise inexpensive-feeling product.

The 3.65-inch HVGA TFT touch screen is made out of Corning Gorilla Glass. Because this is a mid- to entry-level handset, it doesn't have the crispiest of screens: it has a 320x480-pixel resolution and can display up to 262,000 colors. Color gradients, such as those that appear on default wallpapers, look streaky and spotted. However, the touch screen is responsive, and doesn't require much hard pressing for it to register touches.

Above the display are an in-ear speaker, a VGA front-facing camera, and sensors. Below it are four hot keys that light up when in use: menu, home, back, and search.

Software and features
One of the phone's biggest faults is that despite coming out a little more than a month ago, it ships with the severely dated Android 2.3 Gingerbread OS. Later Android versions Ice Cream Sandwich and Jelly Bean have already been released, so if you're looking for an up-to-date unit, this isn't it.

Having said that, the Admire 4G does have a handful of Google apps you come to expect, such as Gmail, Latitude, Maps with Navigation, Places, access to the Google Play Books, Music, and Store, Search, Talk, and finally YouTube.

For basic task management apps it has a calculator, a calendar, a clock with alarm functions, a native e-mail client and browser, a memo pad, music and video players, a to-do list, and voice services like a dialer, recorder, and search.

Samsung Galaxy Admire 4G
Unfortunately, the handset ships with the dated Android 2.3 Gingerbread OS. Josh Miller/CNET

MetroPCS included a few of its own apps, including a 4G mobile hot-spot app; M Studio, which stores media files like ringtones; Metro's own app store; Metro Block-it, which allows you to block calls and texts from unwanted persons; Metro411, which searches and locates for nearby businesses and restaurants; MetroPCS Easy Wi-Fi; the carrier's native browser; an entertainment and media app called MyExtras; a handset locator called Total Protection; and MyMetro, which lets you check your account balance and plan.

Other goodies are AllShare, which lets you play media across several devices; the always intelligent and dependable Yahoo Answers; Desk Cradle, which lets you launch a static home page that shows just a few apps, the weather, and the time; Yahoo Movies; a mobile media suite called Pocket Express; the Quickoffice suite; the streaming-music service Rhapsody; and another note-taking app called Write & Go.

Camera and video
The 3.2-megapixel camera surprisingly holds a lot of photo options, such as touch, auto, and macro focuses, an LED flash, an exposure meter, six shooting modes, a whopping 14 scene modes, a timer, six photo sizes (ranging from 640x480 to 2,048x1,536), five white balances, four color effects, three metering options (matrix, spot, and center-weighted), three image qualities, meters to adjust contrast, saturation, and sharpness, compositional guidelines, and geotagging.

The video camera has the same flash, exposure, timer, compositional lines, white balances, color effects, quality, and adjusting meter options. But you can also mute audio, and shoot in four sizes (from 176x144 to 720x480), and there are two shooting modes (normal and MMS).

The front-facing camera has fewer options. The only features that are retained are the exposure meter, image quality choices, and geotagging. In recording mode, you only get access to the exposure meter, video quality, and audio muting.

For such a low-megapixel camera, photo quality was respectable. In bright, outdoor scenes with even lighting, close-up images were generally sharp. Even though objects outside the center focus point were a bit blurrier, they weren't rendered unrecognizable. In addition colors, like whites, were accurate.

Understandably, photos taken in dimmer indoor lighting did not look as clear. Colors looked duller, images looked blurrier, as if painted on with a broad brushstroke, white lights were washed out, and dark hues were hard to distinguish. However, in general, images did not look over-pixelated and were still easy to make out.

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